E-A-T to Improve Site Rank

Over the past few months, Google has rolled out an update for its search engine that has had massive changes to the ranking algorithm. If you follow SEO news, you may be familiar with “E-A-T” but many people have just started catching on since the August 2018 update, AKA the “medic update.”

These changes to the search engine algorithm have improved the user experience while making it slightly more difficult for websites to rank well. There is no longer a chance for some webpage to rank highly overnight after publishing since Google now requires websites to build their brand with expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T). In this post I will cover the three topics of E-A-T and I will describe some methods that can be used to incorporate them into your content.

What does E-A-T mean?

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. These three qualities have always indicated the quality of a website. After the August 2018 update, they became crucial components of any website that ranks well.

E – Expertise

Expertise involves two things, possessing the knowledge and effectively communicating it. Not only do you need to have significant knowledge about the subject you are writing about, but you also need to share that information engagingly.

If you’re asking yourself “How can I improve my webpages rank?” the simple answer is: have amazing content that users will love. This may seem like a simple and straightforward answer, but it’s the essence of this whole blog, this entire industry really. Here are two tips for expert-level content:

  • Do keyword research and find out what terms your audience is searching for. Target those keywords and create content that surpasses their needs and your competition.
  • Do some research and try to figure out user intent. This will help you create content that users are hoping to find and thus improve your traffic and ranking.

Also, it’s important to understand what type of user is coming to your website. Is it another expert in the field, or is it someone who is just getting started? There are many different types of situations, but the bottom line is you should create your content based on the audience you are targeting. Don’t have long intros for people that are familiar with the subject matter, and don’t include intricate jargon that a newcomer wouldn’t understand. Here are two pointers for creating targeted content:

  • Your content needs to have a balance between comprehensiveness and simplicity.
    • Format your text in an easy to understand way.
    • Have rich media like videos and images to support your content.
  • Predict the user’s next query and create content for that.
  • Link related topics internally so that users can find it easily and stay on your website for all their information needs.

A – Authoritativeness

Expertise is the first step in E-A-T. Authoritativeness is also very important when it comes to Google standards. This comes down to other experts and influencers citing your content as a source of information and your brand (or author name) becoming a top figure in that topic. When this happens, you’re considered both an expert and an authority.
Qualities that help evaluator’s estimate your authoritativeness include:

  • Inbound links from other relevant and authoritative websites are a huge factor for your site’s ranking.
    • Try getting other website owners to endorse your page by linking you in their content.
  • Being mentioned in news articles or authoritative websites will boost your authoritativeness for Google, so try to get mentions as well.
  • Ensuring that your content is shared genuinely and consistently on social media improves your authoritativeness as well.
  • Having users search for your brand is incredible for brand authority. Higher branded search volume is a sign that your brand authority is increasing. On top of this, if queries include both your brand name and a relevant keyword, Google sees this as having good authority.

T – Trustworthiness

It’s essential to have established trustworthiness for your brand, site, and content creators. Both expertise and authority are important, but a lack of trustworthiness in the user’s eyes can slash your SERP rank across all search engines.

Google uses multiple sources to see your trustworthiness online, such as TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google My Business and Yelp. It is important to ensure that your customers are satisfied with your service. At the same time, address customer complaints promptly before there is a significant amount of negativity associated with your brand. Google will notice these bad reviews and it will signal low quality.
Here are some pointers for promoting and improving your online trustworthiness:

  • Have a contact form that allows users to communicate with the website owner.
  • Include your businesses physical location on your website.
  • Create a Terms and Conditions (terms of business) and Privacy Policy page that is easily accessible for users.
  • Have a secure domain. Always use HTTPS so that user data is secure and won’t be intercepted.
  • For web stores, include product specifications so that the user knows exactly what they are buying.
  • Clearly state the refund and return policy (if you sell items/services).
  • Have an author biography if you have information or knowledge that you are sharing.
  • Also, cite your sources, since mentioning where you got your content from is beneficial for the user and the search engine.

Where E-A-T Matters Most

When Google first rolled out its August 2018 update, medical, health, and financial advice websites took the biggest hits in rank. Barry Schwartz, an influential search engine marketing journalist, called the update “the medic update” because of this effect. The update also had a huge impact on YMYL sites. YMYL stands for “Your money or Your Life” and is a quality rating created for content. In other words, Google wants to deliver information that is both relevant and correct to the user.

Some queries can have huge impacts on a person’s wellbeing, such as financial issues, safety, and health searches. Because of this, Google doesn’t want to show results that are opinionated, uneducated or even fraudulent. Instead, they want to show results that have a respectable level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. This way, Google can filter out low-quality content and only show results that will benefit the user. If you have a website that caters to health, wealth or happiness, then you must E-A-T is critical to understand.

How does Google determine the quality of a website?

Google employs a team of thousands to physically evaluate website content rank them based on quality. These evaluators work from a document that outlines the how evaluators should interact with websites and the criteria used to determine the quality of a particular site or page.

Back in 2015, Google released the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines for the public to see how content was rated as low or high quality from Google. The acronyms E-A-T and YMYL came from this document. Google updates the quality evaluator guidelines regularly to ensure that pages that rank well comply with the search engine’s quality standards.

The August 2018 update required evaluators to review both a website’s E-A-T and the author’s/content creator’s E-A-T. This new criteria expanded the concept of a site’s quality to include not just the content, but the people creating the content. This was especially important for YMYL topics since Google only wanted to show content from knowledgable, reputable sources.

This change now makes it crucial that content creators and websites continuously improve their E-A-T. One way for a content creator to improve their E-A-T is to have an author box that also links to their other online profiles (Facebook, Email, Twitter, etc.). This can be done using author schema markup (a form of structured data that shows Google more information about the author and shows other locations the author has an online profile).

Take this image from The New York Times as an excellent example. New York Times Byline With this information on the “about” page for an author, Google can see the author’s other professional profiles, social media handles, and the other articles that they have written or co-written.

Are there any E-A-T shortcuts?

No. While some SEO companies may recommend black hat strategies like link farms and bogus CVs, search engine’s increasingly-sophisticated algorithms will penalize these tactics as soon as their caught. You may gain rank for a day or a week, but you’ll spend twice as long trying to scrape back up after the next update.

To rank well, the E-A-T method needs to be followed holistically when working on SEO and content marketing. This is the only way to rank better on Google. There is no chance of popping up in the #1 spot on the SERP without having the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness that Google desires. There is no shortcut to this, and it will take time to improve. However, if you can implement these three pillars, your rank will improve over time and it will be difficult to fall in ranking.